A Magistrate Judge for Eastern District of New York, Ramon Reyes, has ordered suspended Ogun Governor’s Senior Special Assistant on Special Duties, Abidemi Rufai, should be detained until his trial.
The Magistrate gave the order at the detention hearing Wednesday following Rufai’s brother’s refusal to serve as his third-party custodian.
It was gathered he will be transported to the Western District of Washington where his trial will commence.
Rufai, who was arrested on Friday, is to stand trial for allegedly defrauding the Washington State Employment Security Department of over $350,000 under the pseudonym Sandy Tang.
It was also gathered the prosecutors with the U.S Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington in court papers filed had urged the Magistrate to keep Rufai in custody until his trial in a Federal Court in Washington “because he presents an extreme risk to flight and could use his strong political ties in Nigeria to flee from the U.S.”
In the court document, prosecutors listed six arguments against the request for the release of Rufai.
The Magistrate Judge had reportedly prepared to release Rufai to the third-party custody of his brother Alaba Rufai, who is a New York attorney.
The Attorney’s office was quoted to have revealed “his brother who had tentatively agreed to serve as third-party custodian backed out in court when asked if he (Alaba) could post a $300,000 surety bond, payable in the event that Abidemi Rufai did not show up in court.
“The government indicated it would appeal that ruling to a federal district judge in Western District of Washington.
“However, before the government needed to take that step, Mr. Rufai’s brother indicated he could not serve as the third-party custodian.”
According to an official at the US Department of Justice, the detention order is considered permanent until such time as a future hearing is held in the Western District of Washington.
“The timing on prisoner transport is up to the U.S. Marshal Service, and we will only know the timing of the next hearing when the defendant arrives in the district. Sometimes that takes as long as two to three weeks,” the spokesperson said.
Among the six reasons highlighted why Rufai should be kept in detention, it was argued that his history and characteristics weigh heavily in favour of detention “particularly his extensive ties to Nigeria as a government appointee and where his wife, two children, 15 siblings and parents all live except one brother who lives in New York.”
The prosecutors also expressed the fear of no known address in the US, indicating “releasing Rufai is a risk because he has no known contacts to the Western District of Washington where he allegedly stole the identities of its residents to rob the state of $350,000.”
The case of Rufai being rich enough to fund his escape from the U.S was also put forward with the explanation that he has “substantial financial resources that will enable his flight if granted bail.”
Rufai had however claimed he had only $16,000 in his account in Nigeria and the US but the Department believes the claim is dubious and untrue considering the amount ($288,825) a single U.S. bank account in Rufai’s name received in deposits during the period of the fraud.
“Rufai made the dubious representation to Pretrial Services that his total assets consist of $6,000 in the United States and $10,000 in a Nigerian bank account.
“At the time of his arrest, the defendant was preparing to board a first-class flight to Nigeria with five debit cards and two credit cards in his wallet, a luxury Cartier watch, seven pieces of luggage, and three smartphones on his person,” prosecutors said.
Prosecutors also opined that Rufai may likely be gone forever if he succeeds in fleeing the U.S because “it is well known that extradition from Nigeria to the United States is difficult under the best of circumstances.
“That will be exacerbated in this case because of the strong political connections that earned Rufai a governmental appointment.”
Rufai is accused of being a significant participant in what may have been the largest fraud ever against the Washington state government.
Over $650 million had been reported stolen by fraudsters who claimed unemployment benefits.
Prosecutors want Rufai kept in detention till the commencement of his trial because the fraud he is being accused of relates to a presidentially-declared national emergency and a presidentially-declared major disaster for Washington, and “each of the five counts carries a maximum sentence of 30 years imprisonment, a statutory sentencing enhancement of 10 years.”
Expressing fears that he could flee prosecutors said “the cash bond and surrender of travel documents are wholly inadequate. Rufai could use his resources to purchase a fraudulent passport, or even slip over the border without one.”